Author: owloasis

At Least 2 Owlets

Site 3.

Unfortunately the camera cable broke during one of the winter storms, so we have to rely on external sightings.  But at least we have a minimum of 2 owlets here.  Shot yesterday at late dusk…


Back to the Good.

Site 3.

Looks like there are nesting owls here.  It has been tough to confirm this as the box had been very quiet through out March and April, and observations were sporadic. However,  it seems the young owlets are growing and the weather warming, which affords the mom some breaks to rest in the entrance.  I am pretty sure I heard the owlets, when the mom tucks back down to them as well.  She seems to be skittish/protective now that she is a mom, so she tucks back in quickly if observed too much.


Not Always Good News

Site 9

Unfortunately after a winter of activity, this site has gone quiet.  Got this note from the owner at the end of March, and still no owls as of today:

We have not seen the red owl for almost 2 weeks. He was calling even in the
daytime after the gray female failed to return to the box 2 weeks ago and
then the red male was in the box. The gray female vanished and then it
appeared that the male was searching for her? I have an SD card in the
camera and I only saw him on the recordings. I guess we will never know what
happened to the female but the poor male called day and night. I am still
holding out hope that another owl will occupy the box as our owlets last
year did not hatch until May and fledged in June!

How Did a Saw-Whet Owl Get its Name: Submitting Evidence?

One of the owl worlds ‘great’ mysteries (or not) is how did a saw-whet owl get its name. Of course there are answers: John J. Audubon wrote:

The Little Owl is known in Massachusetts by the name of the “Saw-whet,” the sound of its love-notes bearing a great resemblance to the noise produced by filing the teeth of a large saw.


I was much astonished to hear these sounds issuing from the interior of the grist-mill. The door having been locked, I had to go to my miller’s house close by, to inquire if any one was at work in it.

The problem is there is disagreement among those that study these owls as to which of the many sound saw-whets make that is the actual call that gets its its name. I found this thesis online the outlines the discussion very well:

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is named for a “saw-whet” call, although there is dispute about which call this is, as Saw-whets make a variety of calls, and the literature is ambiguous as to which vocalization is the true “saw-whet” call. The call is said to be likened, however, to a saw being sharpened or “whetted” (Cannings 1993).
The first call that many people claim is the “saw-whet” call is an advertising call that consists of a repetitive series of notes pitched at 1100 Hz. This call is given at a rate of two calls per second and is made primarily by males although females will make a similar call during courtship. The female’s variant is much softer, however, and less consistent in both amplitude and pitch than that of their male counterparts. The male’s version of this call is very loud and can be heard 300 meters away in a forest and up to a kilometer away over water. Territorial males will respond to a recorded playback of this call with a softer, lower pitched version that is more rapid, at four to five notes per second (Cannings 1993).
The second call thought to be the “saw-whet” call is a nasally whine or wail. This call is produced at about the same pitch as the previous call, but lasts for two to three seconds. The pitch will change during the call as more harmonics are added, as will the volume (Cannings 1993).

The last vocalization suggested to be the Saw-whet’s namesake is probably the closest sounding call to the sound of a saw. It consists of a brief succession of loud calls that usually consists of three calls per series. This call is made by both sexes. This particular call has been described as a “ksew-ksew-ksew” call (Cannings 1993).

Like a lot of owlers I have heard both calls and then some, and none of them reminded me of a saw or anything else being filed or sharpened on a whetstone. So I went to youtube to see what I was missing, and much to my dismay after seeing lots of videos of how to sharpen things I still was left not finding a similar sound to the owl. Until I saw one with an antique treadle grinding(whet) stone. It wasn’t the sound of the actual grinding that made a sound that was similar, it was the harmonic squeak of metal on metal that suggested (with out much imagination) with the right speed and rhythm would do a very nice tooting imitation, this would also explain the sounds from the “gristmill” confusion in Audubon’s account too, as a rotating grain grinding wheel that needed lubricant may also produce a similar sound. Anyway here is the video: I would love to hear from others that may have more insight than me on the subject or other evidence one way or another.

Owling Challenge: a ‘Pitcher’s Duel’

Last years owling challenge result, I won 2-0.
This year was off to a tense start with neither my wife nor myself able to pick up points, there were owls around, a good year for snowy owls too, but upon replay none qualified for points until yesterday. 1 point for a road side hunting barred owl for me. Found on my drive into work first thing in the morning. According to section 5: We have to be together for an owl to count as a point with the one exception being road side owls. Such as a new screech owl in hollow or a hunting owl. So this clearly qualifies. Anyway score is 1 to 0 in the bottom of the 7th.

No points for these owls as we were not together, seen earlier in the year
Barred owl:

Long-eared owl:

One challenge point for me for this road side barred owl:

Site 6 Update: Confirmed Pair

Site 6:

Finally got a better picture, but it was after I got a phone through binocular (digi-binned) photo sent to me of a gray phase screech owl in the circle entrance box. This of course piqued my curiosity, in the last post there appeared to be a red phase in the circle entrance box…Anyway, I stopped by but there was nothing in the circle entrance…and here-in lies the benefit of ‘pairing’ boxes for screech owls…. There is a slot entrance box that was installed a year afterward(7.5 years ago) about 50-60 feet away. Sure enough the red phased owl was in the entrance. The owners had seen the gray phase in the circle entrance this morning. Somewhat interestingly, a few years after the slot box was installed and with no screech owl activity at all, the owners built a ‘luxury’ tree house utilizing 4 trees, one of which the slot box is attached too, as you can see in the photo. It will be interesting to see if this(kids in a tree house) has an effect on box choice?
digi-binned gray phase in circle entrance
site6 grey

red phase in slot box with tree house behind it.
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Spreading the Resistance: Two-fer

First comes in from Philadelphia PA.

I have a guest in my owl box I got from you a few years ago:…I’m not sure if it’s new or has been there a while. I recently lost a hemlock tree in my yard in a storm, but with the tree gone, I now have a clear view of the owl box from my kitchen window, which I didn’t before.

We’ve been hearing screech owls at night in the neighborhood on and off the better part of a year, including in the vicinity of my owl nesting box but hadn’t identified the nesting location before.owlPA

The next one is from right here in eastern MA:

Hi there! We hung the owl box in September 2015… and, yesterday we finally had a visitor!!! Yay! It just arrived Sunday. I’ll keep you updated. Last night we heard him monotonally calling. It was delightful!!
owlfrom ma

Just want to thank you both for the updates and congratulations!!! We have been having a lot of late season storms here in the Northeast, so I wonder if some old standby natural screech hollow trees/branches have blown down with some resultant screech owl movement? hopefully more late season new resident owls will take up liking to empty boxes!

Pictoral ‘Ode’ to “the Giving Tree”

Site 1

On site 1 there was a large dead pitch pine on a point that seemed to recruit birds, especially raptors,herons and egrets, although last year flickers at least attempted to nest in the trunk.  I affectionately referred to it as “the giving tree.” Well here in northeast Massachusetts we are in the mist of another storm, but the last storm blew the decaying tree completely over so it will no longer attract birds…All good things….So here are some photos I have gotten of the variety of birds over the years that have perched on the tree. Merlins especially used the tree, so added a few more pics of them.  It was an amazing tree!

great blue heron

red-tailed hawk
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great egret
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imm. black-crowned night heron
peregrine falcon
american kestrel
next 3. merlin
coopers hawk
Imm. bald eagle
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It Only Took 8.5 Years

Site 6

WOW! Nice to have this site active with at least one screech owl. According to my (b)log book this box went up Sept 2009. In fact it is one of the early prototypes that reclaimed and integrated red cedar on the front panel from a normal style box into the SQR type box.   A second box was added in the fall 2010 (slot).  When I first put these up I though it was fairly ideal habitat and that it wouldn’t take long. BUT…. there has been Great Horned Owls near by since the boxes went up and probably played a roll in the absence of Screech Owls at this site.  In fact I heard 2 Great Horned Owls (I think they were competing males, not a male female duet) with in a 1/4 mile of this site earlier in the winter.  Hopefully this is far enough away for a pair of Screech Owls to set up a territory.  Mean while, a screech owl was heard here in the early fall 2017, but never seen in a box until a few days ago. On Feb 26th 2018,  I thought I saw something in the entrance, but there wasn’t enough light to really confirm it, and I didn’t have a camera either.  I told the owners to keep an eye out but after a few days of nothing I was beginning to think I was just seeing or imagining things.  Then today 3/3/2018 my wife went by and confirmed there was an owl in the box.  I was only able to get the documentation photo at dusk in low light, as the owl seems very skittish.  I don’t fully trust the colors in low light photos but it does appear to be red phase.  Hopefully a better picture to come, as this was low shutter speed, hand held through a bay window.


Been a While

Site 1

It has been very quiet at this site, owl wise this season.  The resident screech owls disappeared back in 2015. Unfortunately, it seems, no new screech owls have found this prime real-estate yet. Sometimes Barred or Great Horned owls spend some time in some woodlots near by in the winter. This year nada. Well until just recently, to save being completely owl-skunked a snowy owl showed up…well quite a distance away but no doubt an owl!  This year has been very good for snowy owls, not quite up to the record breaking 2013-2014 snowy year but close.  So just a distant docushot snowy owl pic.

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